When the US declared itself independent in 1776, did it simply consider all people (of a certain demographic) already living in the US citizens? Or did these people have to apply to become citizens somehow? For example, did Benjamin Franklin become a US citizen as soon as the US began existing?

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    What has your research shown? What sources have you checked?
    – MCW
    Oct 15, 2018 at 19:51
  • I didn't find anything when I searched, just irrelevant stuff about early immigration. My sources were the early google results, same as they would be for any sane person with a quick question to ask. Oct 15, 2018 at 19:53
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    The constitution was adopted by popular referendum in each state. Citizens were citizens of the state first; when the ninth state joined the nation, citizens of the state became American citizens (with the exception of Rhode Island; Rhode Island was forced to join the country, at which point RI citizens became American citizens.)
    – MCW
    Oct 18, 2018 at 19:07

1 Answer 1


Citizenship definition did not appear in US Constitution until 1868 (XIV Amendment). So for Benjamin Franklin we have to look in previous founding document, Articles of Confederation:

*Article IV.

The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different states in this union, the free inhabitants of each of these states, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states*

Theoretically, this just passed US citizenship question to the states. In practice, free Negroes were never granted citizenship rights in southern states, and the 1857 Supreme Court Dred Scott decision denied US citizenship for all Negroes regardless of the state they inhabited.

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    Not sure I agree. The Constitution was never submitted to that A o C, but was approved by popular referendum. Of course I should make that argument in an answer not a comment......
    – MCW
    Oct 16, 2018 at 12:46
  • I think this answer has nothing to do with the question cause it seems your main concern in your answer is that "black people", which I'm not sure why you called them Negroes!, are not US citizens technically. Oct 16, 2018 at 22:46
  • @Mark C. Wallace This was kind of abbreviated answer; I just added reference to Constitution. Regardless how A o C was approved, it was defining document for new independent country. Oct 17, 2018 at 0:27
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    @Alone Programmer I just provided relevant facts, and pointed to most notable violation of stated definition of citizenship. Correct if something is wrong, provide your answer if you have one. My concerns are irrelevant, and you pretty naive to assume you can read them. "Negroes" is the language was used at the time, as well as by Martin Luther King; you are free to use different. Oct 17, 2018 at 1:16

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